Parenting Matters: The importance of dads

There are many books and articles written about the importance of mom. Most people agree that moms are of critical importance in raising children. Maybe dads seem less important because most books talk about moms. The important lesson is to remember, dads have a very important role in the successful raising of children.

I would have to say that I am part of the group who have a tendency to write articles about moms and not dads. Actually, I wish that we did not have such a major division between “he” and “she,” because much of what is said about “she” can also be said about “he.”

When I have tried to alternate between he and she, I find it gets awkward. Yes, I believe that the roles of mom and dad are different but I also believe they are both incredibly significant. None of this means that I in any way believe the role of dad is any less significant than the role of mom.

The main thing about the significance of these two roles is how you as a dad feels about your role. Your children believe you are important. That counts. We even know that a child’s IQ increases when dad is involved. T. Berry Brazelton has written that with the father’s involvement, “a child is more likely to have a sense of humor, to develop a sort of inner excitement, to believe in himself or herself, to be more motivated to learn” (“The Earliest Relationship: Parents, Infants, and the Drama of Early Attachment,” T. Berry Brazelton and Bertrand Cramer, Addison Wesley, 1990).

That is a lot of positive about a father’s role. The opposite of that is research that finds a direct correlation between the absence of a father and higher aggression behavior in sons, sexually precocious behavior in daughters and more rigid sex stereotypes in children of both sexes.

Fathers who are actively involved with their children are more likely to be happily married and even more likely to advance in their careers. Research has even found that “being a father can change the ways that men think about themselves” (Ross D. Parke, “Fathers,” Harvard University Press, 1996).

Research has even found that fathers can learn from their children and be matured by them.

When men are involved with their children it is also good for their marriage and for their partner. The more support moms get from their husbands, the happier they are in their marriage. This helps men be happier themselves. This is a lot to have happen by being an involved father.

So what does your involvement mean? It means you are involved in the earliest days of your baby’s life. You talk with her. You read stories to him even when he is a baby. When your baby cries you go find out what is wrong with her and help make things right.

When your spouse is making dinner, you entertain him or even feed him. You take her for rides and talk about what you see. You play games with him as he grows. You give her baths at night before bed. You put him to bed with a story or a new book. You comfort her when she gets hurt. You reassure him when his feelings are hurt.

Basically, you do everything for your child that your partner does. Dad’s role is not a lot different than mother’s role.

You need to be an involved and caring parent. Enjoy this special role you are in. How you handle all this helps determine how your child will turn out. That is a worthwhile role.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. To reach interim First Teacher Executive Director Patty Waite, email or call 360-681-2250.